State lawmakers attack SmartMeter billing practices

SACRAMENTO — California's largest utility came under fire from state lawmakers Monday for billing practices associated with its "smart-meter program," which has generated nearly 1,000 customer complaints to regulators.

Members of the state Senate took Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to task over the 3-year-old initiative, which uses electronic data, rather than meter readers, to determine customers' monthly gas and electric use.

Advocates say smart meters will lower bills, improve billing accuracy and help customers make better-informed decisions about their energy use. Other utilities in the state also are trying the devices, though on a smaller scale than PG&E.

But state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, said many of his Central Valley constituents are complaining of skyrocketing costs and bill estimates that exceed what they owe.

He said Monday's hearing of the Senate Select Committee on the Smart Grid would be the first of several to address possible flaws in the smart-meter system.

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